NO MERCY

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FAR FEWER de­mands (from the me­dia in par­tic­u­lar), the fact that he is play­ing at home, and that the se­ries has al­ready also been won has made Dean El­gar’s sec­ond ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing the Proteas’ stand-in skip­per a far more re­laxed one.

The first time was some­thing of an or­deal. It was an im­mensely proud mo­ment for El­gar at Lord’s in 2017 to be sure, but it was hec­tic too. It was a se­ries opener against Eng­land, it was Lord’s and it was a South African team that had been stitched to­gether.

Be­sides Faf du Plessis, ab­sent for that match while his wife was giv­ing birth, there was also no Dale Steyn and a cou­ple of se­nior play­ers were car­ry­ing poor form.

“The whole ex­pe­ri­ence in Eng­land was a lot more chaotic,” El­gar re­flected yes­ter­day ahead of the third and fi­nal Cas­tle Lager Test against Pak­istan at the Wan­der­ers.

At Lord’s, El­gar had to do a ra­dio interview and a sep­a­rate TV en­gage­ment be­fore con­duct­ing the for­mal press con­fer­ence with a far larger me­dia del­e­ga­tion than was present at the Wan­der­ers yes­ter­day. Then he had to pose with two tro­phies in front of a six foot ze­bra along­side Joe Root.

“I re­mem­ber run­ning around all over the show at Lord’s, then do­ing the presser, with a lot more re­porters, and that was quite in­tim­i­dat­ing. I’ve learned a lot from those ex­pe­ri­ences,” El­gar said yes­ter­day.

Just one TV interview and an 11-minute press con­fer­ence were all the de­mands he faced af­ter train­ing yes­ter­day morn­ing.

“This time around it’s a lit­tle less stressed due to the na­ture of the se­ries and the venue. This time I re­ally want to take it in, I’m not sure when I’ll do this again, so I want to re­ally en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence.”

A dif­fer­ent out­come to the Lord’s one would add to that en­joy­ment and El­gar has stressed that with the squad this week.

“We’ve got the se­ries in the bag (but) there is still a mas­sive goal for us, to drive home that fi­nal nail, which we de­serve to do; we’ve played good cricket in this se­ries.

We’ve learned

“That was the big mes­sage I gave the squad (on Wednesday); even though we’ve got the se­ries in the bag, we’ve been in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion be­fore and let it slip against In­dia, which hurt a lot, and hope­fully we’ve learned from that.

“I was blunt and straight­for­ward with the squad; if there is any com­pla­cency within our camp, we need to iron that crease out right now, we have a mas­sive goal and that is to win here 3-0 and win the sum­mer 5-0 (in­clud­ing two Tests against Sri Lanka), and be­ing at home is a mas­sive ad­van­tage for us.”

Since los­ing to Eng­land in

2016, South Africa have won six se­ries in a row on home soil, with last sum­mer’s pair of tri­umphs against In­dia and Aus­tralia the high­lights.

The Proteas swept the se­ries 3-0 the last time Pak­istan toured here in 2013, al­though El­gar re­mains wary that the tourists are still keen to prove a point.

“They’ve played good cricket, they’ve been hurt a bit in this se­ries, but we are never go­ing to give the op­po­si­tion any­thing on a plate. I’m sure they will come back, they will have some huff and puff, es­pe­cially for the first day, but if we stick to the game plans we will blow them out of the wa­ter.”

South Africa will in all like­li­hood stick with the four-pronged pace at­tack that did duty at New­lands; al­though when the sus­pended Faf du Plessis ar­rived at the ground ahead of train­ing yes­ter­day and in­spected the pitch, there was talk about its dry­ness and thus the pos­si­ble in­clu­sion of spin­ner Ke­shav Ma­haraj in the start­ing team.

The weather for the first three days of the Test is set to be fair, while the pitch, ac­cord­ing to El­gar, looks a good one that will of­fer a more even bat­tle be­tween bat and ball than Su­pers­port Park and New­lands.

This may be a game that goes into a fifth day.

Mean­while, opener Ai­den Markram, who bruised his right thigh in the sec­ond Test, was de­clared fit to start af­ter com­ing through a fit­ness test yes­ter­day, and it was con­firmed that Zubayr Hamza will make his de­but in place of Du Plessis and is likely to bat at No 5.

Dean El­gar Back­pagepix

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